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Cozy Voice for Catastrophes
The work you are reading deals with some dark, dark things. Distressingly unique methods for killing characters, living manifestations of dark psyches, and things that should traumatize every character in the story for life.
So, naturally, this should be treated with the deathly serious import such subject matter warrants
No, actually. One school has it that if you're going to revolt your reader, you'd better do something to make your story easy to read. So the narrator or viewpoint character will speak of those horrific topics in a calm, sort of folksy way that both engages and detaches the audience. It's also applicable to audio and video. In combination with a Lemony Narrator
, this may lead you to wonder
if said narrator has been rendered insane
by the story he or she is telling.
See also Dissonant Serenity
and Danger Deadpan
- The Green Mile is the epitome of this. People's faces are melted off more than once, but the tone is always that of an old man with good stories to tell. Stephen King novels in general have a very folksy, affable quality to the narration, no matter what nightmarish situation they're narrating.
- Old Man's War is similar, right down to the, well, old man. The aliens they fight each have their own unique way of being horrifying, but the narrator's matter-of-fact tone sees you through.
- This could almost be considered Amélie Nothomb's trademark style. Fear and Trembling is an excellent example.
- Enders Game is a borderline case - Ender is not exactly a poster child for Angst? What Angst?, but he's still a child discovering new things, affording the proceedings a kind of wonder.
- Guy Gavriel Kay sometimes indulges in this, with the narrator reflecting on hard or horrible events as if looking back on them from decades later, or addressing them with a sort of gentle poetry or clinical detachment like a teacher lecturing his class. The overall effect is a sense that yes, things are horrible now, but life goes on and the world carries on.
- Ciaphas Cain has the Framing Device that they're Cain's memoirs, written while he's in retirement decades after the events he's describing have happened. Thus they're written in this rambling, detached manner, Cain sidetracking himself for whole paragraphs or recounting events that were terrifying at the time with his usual humour or Lovable Cowardice, regardless of whether he's describing the horrors of an Ork occupation, a pile of corpses sacrificed in a Chaos ritual surrounded by Brown Note-incuding sigils, or a colossal Tyranid swarm barreling towards a town. He drops this entirely however when during his expedition to a Necron Tomb World, which shows how much he still fears them.
- Mohinder Suresh from Heroes often spoke the opening narration in a tone that makes the show's techno-babble easier to digest.
- A possible alternative name for this trope is "The David Attenborough Narration". Such a calm soothing voice, easing you through the violently graphic imagery of a seal being snatched from the beach and shredded by a killer whale.
- The narrator of Pushing Daisies was voiced by Jim Dale. Every episode we would hear him describing creatively violent murders in dulcet English tones.
- Invoked in a John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme sketch. An actor is hired to read an emergency broadcast which he believes is part of a movie script. Unbeknownst to him, he's actually recording a real emergency announcement, because the government is about to release a biohazard and needs a recording of a soothing voice telling people not to panic.
- GlaDOS of Portal describes everything from deadly experiments to your impending death with the same urgency as an automated recording announcing the next train to arrive. At the end and in the entirety of Portal 2, she drops this for a detached monotone that manages to be soothing and creepy at the same time.
- Vigil in Mass Effect 1 lays out a million-years-old cycle of galactic-scale genocide in a relaxed, calm manner.
- Bastion applies this both visually (through a cute, childish art style) and aurally (Logan Cunningham, an actor with no previous major credits, has been noted by multiple reviewers to give very soothing narration even when listing off the names of all the dead people the protagonist finds in the street.)
- Transistor, Spiritual Successor to Bastion, has Royce Bracket, who retains the same soft, frail, scatterbrained voice regardless of whether he's describing the agents of the apocalypse or trying his best to kill you.
- Stephen Fry provides the voice over for LittleBigPlanet.
- Paul McGann has a soft, pleasant voice, and has said in an interview that for this reason he's often asked to narrate documentaries on frightening topics.
- Morgan Freeman is the go-to guy for one of these as shown by XKCD.
- The British equivalent to Freeman, Stephen Fry, can also do this, and he in fact did with two very personal documentaries about very frightening things (HIV and bipolar disorder).
- As referenced above, Sir David Attenborough has a calm, soothing voice that make the most heart-rending scenes in a documentary less awful.
- The Little Fears, a YouTube personality, makes videos wherein she recites Creepypasta stories, 'true' accounts, and her own made up tales in this manner.
- Welcome to Night Vale has the velvety baritone of its narrator, Cecil Palmer, relate the various bizarre and horrifying events that regularly happen around town. Because Cecil is a local and is Conditioned to Accept Horror, he treats the news with disturbingly understated matter-of-factness. And even he is outdone by Kevin, his counterpart in Desert Bluffs, who veers straight into Stepford Smiler territory.